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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Angelology: A Novel

- St. Rose

My latest book from the library is Angelology: A Novel by Danielle Trussoni. Here's the blurb about it from the back of the book ....

When 23 year old Sister Evangeline of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York discovers a letter dated 1943 from Abigail Rockefeller, the famed philanthropist, to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent, she uncovers a millennia-old war between the Society of Angelologists and the Nephilim (descendants of fallen angels). As Evangeline shares her discovery with angeologists, she assists them in their efforts to halt the Nephilim from overpowering humankind.

I've only a ways into the book, but I like it quite well so far as the writing seems good, the characters are likeable, and the religious bits are treated with respect .... I especially like the description of convent life and the info about Rose of Viterbo. I've seen the book compared to Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code in some reviews but I think it isn't like his book at all - I stopped reading Brown's book halfway through because of the cynicism and the disregard for factual truth (which I appreciate even in fantasy and science fiction). If the writing of Angelology: A Novel reminds me of any other book, it's maybe The Historian.

At any rate, the book is a novel on a subject that's rarely well done, in my limited experience, so it's hard not to give it a chance. I only know who the Nephilim were from watching an episode of The X-Files (All Souls) - it really does seem like I've learned everything I know from that series :) The subject of fallen angels is not new, of course, especially at the movies (see my past posts on the films Fallen and The Prophecy) so it should come as no surprise that a movie is already being made from this book - 'Da Vinci Code' Meets 'National Treasure' Novel – 'Angelology' – Sells to Sony.

For those interested, here's the first page of a two page review of the book from the New York Times ....


Fallen Angels
Published: March 3, 2010

There was a time in the 1990s when angels were impossible to escape. Guardians, muses, articles of trade, they covered T-shirts and bathroom accessories, bloomed on restaurant walls and peered from the edges of book jackets. Lately they may seem to have drifted away, but they’ve merely wandered into the literature of self-help and healing. It is now possible to buy “How to Hear Your Angels,” “Working With Angels,” “In the Arms of Angels” and “Angels 101,” as well as angel dictionaries, encyclopedias and art books.

Danielle Trussoni’s first novel, “Angelology,” should not be confused with any of these. Her rousing story turns on bad and fallen angels, particularly the offspring of matings between humans and heavenly beings. The hybrids known as Nephilim first appear in Genesis 6: “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose,” and when “they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” This might not sound so bad, but in Trussoni’s handling, the Nephilim are “beautiful, iridescent monsters” who belong in cages. With shimmering golden skins and vast white wings sprouting from their backs, they frighten a 9-year-old girl named Evangeline. And how much more terrifying to hear one of the creatures declare, “Angel and devil. . . . One is but a shade of the other.”

Trussoni’s previous book, “Falling Through the Earth,” was a memoir of growing up with a father haunted by his past as a “tunnel rat” who searched ­below-ground for guerrillas during the Vietnam War. As an adult, Trussoni took her own trip to Vietnam and envisioned his life there, writing a tripartite biography-­autobiography both redemptive and unsettling. With “Angelology” she revisits the subterranean burrows and the concern with paternity and inheritance, twisting them into an elegantly ambitious archival thriller in which knowledge dwells in the secret underground places, labyrinthine libraries and overlooked artifacts that have been hallmarks of the genre from “The Name of the Rose” and “Possession” to “Angels and Demons” and “The Historian.” “Angelology” is richly allusive and vividly staged, with widescreen-ready ­visuals, a dewy but adaptable heroine and a dashingly cruel villain.

One snowy day near the end of the last millennium, a young nun working in a Hudson Valley convent library discovers a secret correspondence between a former mother superior and the philanthropist Abigail Aldrich Rockefeller. After some further research and with a smitten art historian, Verlaine, at her side, the nun, Sister Evangeline, is drawn into a centuries-old struggle against the Nephilim — a fight in which both of her parents, now dead, were once engaged (hence the visit to the caged monsters). In under two days, she and Verlaine will quest after missing letters, books and an object so precious and singular that it has been commemorated in both angel iconography and the ancient myth of Orpheus. They will also find out what it means to wrestle with angels.

Despite their extensive scholarship, neither Evangeline nor Verlaine is prepared (who could be?) for the Nephilim. The modern-day “Famous Ones” are nasty, selfish creatures who live in opulent apartments. Gorgeous, sensuous and wealthy, they are jealous of humans and vindictive toward God, cold to one an­other and rude to their servants, who belong to lesser angelic orders. During World War II, they attended Nazi parties. But even angels decline; their wings, which may be extensions of their lungs, sometimes rot away to ugly black nubs stuck in open sores. It is happening now to the formerly magnificent Percival Grigori — who, at the height of his powers, fell for a woman.

Some of Trussoni’s most exquisite writing touches on that old love story, which takes place in a flashback to a dreamy Montparnasse that could have come from the pages of Anaïs Nin. In 1939, two teenage girls — one brilliant and beautiful, the other plain but harder working — receive special assignments at the Angel­ological Academy. One involves archival research, another an expedition to the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria, where scholars hope to recover the golden lyre that Orpheus gave to angels imprisoned in a measure­less cavern. The repercussions of the girls’ activities, both academic and amorous, could keep the Nephilim in check or let them triumph definitively over humans. And both lives are tangled with Evangeline’s; the first girl will become her grandmother, the second a fellow nun with a story to share .......



Blogger Liam said...

I'll have to check that out.

A good nephalim novel is "The Stress of her Regard" by Tim Powers -- Romantic poets, vampires, and nephalim! Anything by Tim Powers is worth reading.

7:52 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I'll look him up - he sounds familiar.

I'm further on in the book and the main male character is an adjunct professor from Columbia U :)

9:58 PM  
Blogger Liam said...

Yea, adjunct professors! They need all the help -- angelic or otherwise -- they can get.

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

near the end of cpt 5..."st. rose convent, milton, n.y." there is a line that refers to Verlaine having "wing tips". Is he or is he not a Nephilim or am I reading this incorrectly?

7:28 AM  

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